JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community members are gearing up for this weekend’s annual Serving Up A Cure tennis tournament that benefits three local charities that help fund cancer research and treatment.
One local family is pushing for more funding to help advance cancer research efforts so other families will have a fighting chance when it comes to the disease.
At the young age of 10 Ellie Kavalieros was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. It’s an aggressive brain tumor that quickly affected her vision, hearing and motor functions.
“When you're faced with that prognosis, as a parent, you're not going to give up," said Nick Kavalieros, Ellie's father.
The family searched all over the world, meeting with experts.
"It was disheartening when we were going through the diagnosis to find that so little was out there, was available, so little was done, it was frustrating," said Elle’s mother Lisa Kavalieros.
"Even worse, there had been no progress in treatment of it in the last 50 years," said Nick.
Ellie participated in an immunotherapy clinical trial and fought hard for 19 months, but passed Christmas morning in 2011.
"Her passion for life was beautiful. Her smile lit up a room," Lisa said.
The family started the Ellie Kavalieros DIPG Research Fund to help other families treat the disease.
"We are dedicated to changing the landscape of cancer treatment to significantly impact the outcome of this disease,” said Lisa.
The charity tournament was the family’s way of honoring Ellie by combining her favorite sport with a great cause.
"She was incredibly outgoing. She was a bit of a tomboy. She loved to play tennis," said Nick.
Donations collected through Serving Up A Cure and Ellie's Fund have already had an impact. DIPG has been biopsied and studied, and researchers have started clinical trials and identified several drugs that can help fight the effects of the deadly cancer.
"They’re changing the lives of many children and many families out there,” said Nick
"The community's supports been huge," Lisa said.
The tournament starts Friday at the Deerwood Country Club tennis center and runs through the weekend. In addition to raising money for the Ellie Kavaleiros DIPG Research Fund, the event benefit the Gabriel House of Care and Community Hospice of Northeast Florida.
For more information and to make donations visit www.servingupacure.com.